“Moneyball” told the story of a plucky Oakland A’s team that exploited market inefficiencies, overcame the loss of several excellent players and went on to have one of the best seven-year runs in franchise history. Today’s A’s have won two straight AL West titles and are in the hunt for a third. They also have fewer elite homegrown players than their predecessors did a decade ago — even the most hardcore baseball fans would have a tough time naming a single A’s superstar. Given their lack of top talent, and the extremely subtle methods they’ve used to build a winner, you could argue that today’s A’s are even more “Moneyball” than their forebears were.The A’s lack of reliance on star players, combined with their recent success, has engendered numerous articles singing their praises and extolling the virtue of a team that uses balance, depth and versatility (and not star power) to win games. Hell, even the defending champion Boston Red Sox — a big-revenue ballclub with a $155 million Opening Day payroll — embraced the power of roster balance and depth to win it all.It’s easy to praise that kind of balanced approach as shrewd. It’s equally easy to denigrate teams that spend a boatload of money on a few famous veterans, leaving the rest of the team fighting for the last few dollars left. But is one tack really more effective than the other? If you want to build a winning baseball team, which strategy works best — a balanced roster, or one made up of stars and scrubs?To answer this question, we used a favorite tool of economists: the Gini coefficient. Typically, the Gini coefficient measures income distribution among a large group of people. We can apply the same principle to roster construction, by using wins above replacement. The Gini coefficient runs on a scale of 0 to 1, with the most unequal distribution coming closer to 1, and more balanced distribution shading closer to 0. A stars-and-scrubs roster would have more WAR variance among players and thus a higher Gini score. A balanced roster would have players bunched closer together by WAR, and thus a lower Gini score.The baseball statistics site FanGraphs’ version of WAR is calibrated to reflect year-end win totals. So if you have two teams generating 50 wins at the end of the season, one with a stars-and-scrubs roster, the other with a balanced squad, the team that will perform better is … neither. After 162 games, wins are wins, regardless of how you acquire them.The best way to solve this problem is to use monthly WAR data, which the good folks of FanGraphs were able to provide. We looked at WAR and WAR distribution for the month of April each year from 1974 through 2013.1Only one season, strike-shortened 1995, wasn’t included in the results. We ran month-by-month Gini data for every team going back those 40 years, tracking WAR inequality for the month, then comparing that result to WAR totals for the rest of the season, to see which of the two roster construction methods yielded more wins.The result? Having a larger Gini coefficient (as you’d see in a stars-and-scrubs roster) is ever so slightly associated with better outcomes over the rest of the season. However, the effect wasn’t large enough to be statistically significant, so this analysis says a team should probably just be indifferent about which approach it uses to build a roster.Of course, this merely tells us about future outcomes for teams that have certain WAR distributions in April. Trying a different route, we split up the monthly data into half-seasons, to see whether this finding (that Gini doesn’t matter after controlling for WAR) holds for a different timeframe. We computed each team’s WAR Gini number for each half-season — June and before, and July and after. Once again, we found that the Gini number was nowhere near statistically significant.Taking one last stab at the problem, we broke seasons up into even and odd months, just in case there was something about a pre- and post-July sample of games that might skew the results. At last, we found a Gini coefficient that was pretty close to being statistically significant. But here’s the thing: The effect was still very small for the purposes of measuring real-life wins and losses. For every one standard deviation of change in the Gini number, you get 0.37 wins per 162 games2In order to account for teams playing different numbers of games in different chunks of the season, the regression was run on WAR per game numbers. We multiplied the regression coefficient by 162 to arrive at the per-162 game rate. — about the same effect as replacing the crappy last guy on your bench with a slightly less crappy 25th man.Looking at the numbers as a whole, we arrive at this conclusion: Build a balanced roster or a stars-and-scrubs roster. Either way, which players are good, and how good they are individually, doesn’t make any difference after we control for how good the team is in the aggregate. The moral of the story is to find players who generate as much value as possible, in whatever combination, period.But if the way teams get their wins doesn’t matter much when looking at the forest, there might still be some lessons we can learn by zooming in on a few trees. Specifically, the most and least balanced teams in our data set.The most imbalanced team during our 40-year stretch was the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks. And man, did they suck. The D-Backs won just 51 games that year, and lost 111. Only one team in the past 40 years lost more games: the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who went 43-119.3The 2013 Astros likewise posted a 51-111 record, matching those lousy ’04 Diamondbacks. The Astros have been roundly criticized for tanking — not for losing on purpose per se, but for running out an anachronistically tiny $26 million payroll last year, and being content to pocket No. 1 draft picks. They’ll pick first again in this year’s draft, and are the favorites to do so next year, too. Those Diamondbacks employed Randy Johnson, who in 2004 reeled off the seventh-best season by any starting pitcher in the past 40 years, racking up 9.5 wins above replacement.4Tying with 2000 Randy Johnson and 1995 Randy Johnson. In fact, the Big Unit posted five of the nine best seasons by any pitcher in that four-decade span, with Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez claiming two top seasons each. Randy Johnson was really, really freaking good. Only one other player on that D-Backs team, fellow starting pitcher Brandon Webb, produced more than two wins above replacement that year; a two-win player is a league average player, which means only two members of the ’04 Diamondbacks even managed to be better than average.Turns out that D-Backs club wasn’t unique when it comes to an extreme stars-and-scrubs roster and lousy results. The 16 teams with the biggest WAR distribution in our study all finished below .500. Combined, they averaged fewer than 64 wins per season. You can win quite a few games with LeBron James and a bunch of crummy players, because the best basketball players deliver far more value than the best baseball players.5There are many reasons for this, but it boils down having only five basketball players on the court at the same time, and the best players not needing to wait their turn in the same way that an elite hitter has to wait for eight other guys to bat before he can stride to the plate. One superstar and 24 Oompa Loompas gets you nowhere in baseball.The most balanced team in our study was the 1976 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Buccos won 92 games that year, led by strong contributions from multiple quality players. The team’s top five starting pitchers all delivered above-average seasons, with Bruce Kison, Jerry Reuss, Doc Medich, John Candelaria and Jim Rooker all producing two or more wins above replacement. Six of the eight position players with the most plate appearances — Richie Zisk, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, Frank Taveras, Bill Robinson and Manny Sanguillén — produced above-average seasons.Here again we find that at the extremes, roster composition does seem to matter. The eight most balanced teams in our sample all finished at .500 or better, averaging 94 wins a season.Really, it comes down to this: There are advantages and disadvantages to both roster-building approaches. Assembling a deep and balanced group of players insulates you against one injury torpedoing your entire team. But there are still legitimate reasons to pay the best players $25 million a year or more; an elite baseball player might not be worth 20-plus wins the way the top NBA superstars are, but tacking seven, eight or more wins onto your team’s ledger can make a big difference.Even the scrubs element of the stars-and-scrubs approach can be a blessing in disguise. If a severely imbalanced team gets to the trade deadline and is in contention, it’s much easier to acquire a decent player who’ll be an upgrade over its terrible existing option than it is to do the same for a balanced team that already has decent players at every position.We might get a few more test cases on both ends of the spectrum this year. The deep and balanced A’s are tied for first place in the AL West. On the other hand, the New York Yankees project as one of the most extreme examples of a stars-and-scrubs roster. They employ multiple high-value players like Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, but also a highly questionable infield that includes Mark Teixeira with a bum wrist; aging, injury-prone second baseman Brian Roberts; a third-base combination of Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson that’s off to a hot start but figures to regress dramatically; plus Derek Jeter, the Hall of Fame shortstop now on his last legs. So far, that approach has worked, with the Yankees leading the AL East, and the possibility of trades to upgrade weak positions looms in June and July.6Acquiring quality second baseman Aaron Hill from the last-place Diamondbacks makes so much sense, it’s criminal. And that’s before we even touch the close relationship that exists between Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Arizona GM Kevin Towers.A poor team like the A’s might have no choice but to pursue that balanced method, since they lack the big revenue stream that would allow them to pay multiple veteran superstars. Doubly so without the army of homegrown stars like Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada who led the way for the “Moneyball” A’s. Meanwhile, the Yankees might never be able to resist the siren song of a $100 million (or $275 million) player. If the two approaches deliver similar results, that could be an equalizer for low-budget teams trying to keep up with their richer rivals.
Bonus Hot Takedown Podcast: Allison McCann talks with Julie Foudy, Kelley O’Hara, and Christen Press. Subscribe on iTunes. In less than a week, the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) will play its opening game against Australia at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. FiveThirtyEight visual journalist Allison McCann got the chance to sit down with USWNT players Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press — two former teammates of hers from Stanford — and discuss our Women’s World Cup predictions, how they balance club and country play, Canadian dumplings and why you should watch them play this summer. Also be sure to read our full World Cup preview, and hear Allison discuss the tournament on our sports podcast Hot Takedown.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after he crashed his 2012 Bentley Continental GT into a light pole over the weekend in Binghamton, N.Y.According to Yahoo! News, the 24-year-old UFC star paid an appearance bond and was released from police custody with no major injuries. Jones has been quiet on the incident. More importantly, so has his boss, UFC President Dana White.Jones has quickly become one of the biggest stars in the UFC and currently has a record of 16-1, with his only loss coming by disqualification. In his last fight Jones beat former light heavyweight champion and mentor Rashad Evans by decision at UFC 145 in Chicago.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The women’s tennis tour approved rule changes Monday that are meant to ensure players are not penalized after they return from pregnancy or an injury that causes a long absence.The changes were prompted, in part, by the experiences of former No. 1 players Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, both of whom returned to competition after giving birth.Serena Williams returns a shot against Krystyna Pliskova during their first-round match of the French Open tennis tournament in Paris, France. T(AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)The WTA announced that players returning to the tour may use a special ranking for up to three years after the birth of a child, and the exemption can be used for seedings at big events.Williams, who owns an Open-era record 23 Grand Slam singles titles, was unseeded at this year’s French Open in her first major since the birth of her daughter — despite having won the previous major she played, the 2017 Australian Open. Williams was seeded 25th at Wimbledon and 17th at the U.S. Open, and she reached the finals and lost at both of those majors.Players who return from an injury that keeps them out of competition for a year or longer may use a special ranking in 12 tournaments. No player will be bumped from her earned seeded position.“These changes,” WTA CEO and chairman Steve Simon said, “are designed to fully support players in their return to competition, while maintaining the highest standards of athletic competition and fairness.”The tour also said it will ensure women at WTA tournaments “are not penalized or prohibited from wearing leggings or compression shorts without a skirt, dress or shorts over them.”Williams wore a black bodysuit at the French Open, where she pulled out with an injury before the fourth round. Williams said she wore the compression suit because of a history of blood clots, including after childbirth.This fall, the president of the French Tennis Federation said Williams could no longer wear the black bodysuit at the French Open.Azarenka, a member of the WTA Players’ Council, said she wants to make sure the WTA is “the most progressive and inclusive association in sports.”“Our players should feel comfortable and confident to take time away from the courts to have a family or recover from injury,” Azarenka said.
Conventional NFL wisdom says teams should do whatever it takes to snag a Franchise Quarterback™ — that from there, the winning just takes care of itself. But for most of Philip Rivers’s career, his Los Angeles (née San Diego) Chargers have been the exception to that rule. Taken fourth overall in the 2004 draft, Rivers has been the elite passer that teams dream about building around. And yet, his team has just four total playoff wins to show for it, including only one this decade.This year, though, Los Angeles looks poised to reverse that trend and actually capitalize on having a future Hall of Fame QB in its midst, while there’s still time left in Rivers’s career to do it. The Chargers walloped the Browns 38-14 in Cleveland last Sunday, bringing their record to 4-2 on the season — and giving them a 61 percent probability of making their first playoff appearance since 2013. Although L.A.’s postseason bid is far from assured, right now the Chargers have set themselves up with their most promising start to a season in a long time.This Charger renaissance has been building for a few years, since the team finally began surrounding Rivers again with better playmakers on both sides of the ball. On defense, that goes back to 2012, when former general manager A.J. Smith drafted pass-rusher Melvin Ingram 18th overall. After a slow start to his career, Ingram has blossomed into a Pro Bowler and an annual double-digit sack candidate. Under Smith’s successor, Tom Telesco, the Chargers have also grabbed several defensive contributors through the draft, including sack-machine DE Joey Bosa,1Who has missed the season so far with an injury but made the Pro Bowl last year. solid LB Denzel Perryman, up-and-coming CB Desmond King II and rookie S Derwin James (who, in his first season, already ranks as the NFL’s fifth-best safety according to ProFootballFocus’s player grades). Toss in outside pickups such as DT Brandon Mebane and CB Casey Hayward — another Pro Bowler from last season — plus the guidance of proven coordinator Gus Bradley, and the Chargers’ defensive talent base has undeniably made strides over the past handful of seasons.On offense, Telesco also made key acquisitions that helped pave the way for this year’s hot start when he took WR Keenan Allen in the third round of the 2013 draft and RB Melvin Gordon 15th overall in 2015. Picking first-round running backs is always tricky business, but Gordon has been a good one so far in his career, with a couple of 1,400-yards-from-scrimmage seasons under his belt (in 2016 and 2017) and an excellent start to 2018 as well. Meanwhile, Allen has taken the lead from top San Diego-era targets Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates and forged his own chemistry with Rivers — only four receivers leaguewide have more yards through the air since 2017 than Allen does. (It also helps that Allen has stayed healthy these past two seasons after missing 23 combined games in 2015-16.) Allen and Gordon aren’t the only teammates making Rivers’s life easier: The offensive line has been much better with free-agent C Mike Pouncey anchoring the middle, while change-of-pace RB Austin Ekeler has proven himself exceptionally tough to bring down — he leads all RBs in yards after first contact per rush. More broadly, in its second year under head coach Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles now has the offensive pieces to beat teams in multiple ways.Add it all up and it’s clear that Rivers, who turns 37 in December, has a much better group of talent around him to work with than in years past. Here’s a look at the changes in Rivers’s own production over time — as measured by his Yards Above Backup Quarterback (YABQ) — along with how his top skill-position teammates and defense have also evolved: TEN53BAL54BAL 21, TEN 0+4.8– SEA67SEA63SEA 27, OAK 3-4.4– 200726.4L. Tomlinson121.8A. Gates61.562.6 201775.1M. Gordon98.8K. Allen87.663.0 200997.0L. Tomlinson55.3V. Jackson73.646.4 201548.3D. Woodhead68.2K. Allen45.338.6 WSH38.816.3DAL18.104.22.168517 Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN.com LAR69LAR75LAR 23, DEN 20+1.2– 20183.9%101.566 201077.1M. Tolbert59.4A. Gates48.964.3 LAC69LAC60LAC 38, CLE 14-9.1– BAL68.711.5NO72.29.721.11605 201899.2M. Gordon124.2K. Allen80.054.9 200658.5L. Tomlinson145.2A. Gates57.861.1 Per-game measures are relative to team schedule lengths, not individual games played.YABQ: Yards Above Backup Quarterback, a measure of QB performance that gives credit for passing and rushing, and adjusts for strength of schedule.YDSC: yards from scrimmage, or rushing yards plus receiving yards.Defensive efficiency: ESPN’s measure of a defense’s per-play effectiveness on a 0-100 scale.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group, pro-Football-Reference.com Playoff %Playoff % OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 6Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 6 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game NE54NE50NE 43, KC 40-6.2– NYJ67NYJ57NYJ 42, IND 34-9.9– CIN49.611.2KC95.83.614.81575 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS CAR55CAR58WSH 23, CAR 17-5.3– MIN57.013.4NYJ22.214.171.124513 DAL53JAX60DAL 40, JAX 7-16.2– LAR95.83.3SF126.96.36.19912 SeasonRivers YABQ/GTop RBYdSc/GTop Rec.YdSC/GTeam Def. efficiency GB66GB75GB 33, SF 30+3.3– ATL67ATL64ATL 34, TB 29-3.9– Philip Rivers is great again — and he has helpLos Angeles Chargers’ production from quarterback Philip Rivers and his supporting cast, 2006-2018 Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. JAX46.713.8HOU23.612.926.71470 MIA42.812.6DET24.39.822.41496 MIA54CHI59MIA 31, CHI 28-15.4– Los Angeles will put its improved talent and newfound execution on display in London on Sunday, for a game against the Tennessee Titans that ranks among the best of Week 7 in terms of both matchup quality (i.e., the harmonic mean of the two teams’ Elo ratings in each game) and how much it figures to swing either team’s odds of making the playoffs: PHI71PHI66PHI 34, NYG 13-5.4– CHI43.012.2NE78.49.021.31560 201713.3312.3132 CIN54CIN51PIT 28, CIN 21+1.2– 201631.8M. Gordon88.5T. Williams66.251.1 For the Chargers, it’s part of a long road trip that will keep them away from Southern California until Nov. 18. The StubHub Center doesn’t exactly offer an intimidating advantage even when they are at home, but it does bear watching how L.A. manages all that travel. Even so, the Chargers’ season will still probably hinge on the final few matchups of the season — their last five games are either against division rivals or the biggest threats to their wild-card chances. If Rivers and his improved supporting cast can continue to thrive up to and including the month of December, we’ll know the Chargers have stamped their ticket back to the postseason and given their star QB at least one more chance to shine on the game’s brightest stage.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersAttention football fans! Be sure to check out our constantly updating NFL prediction interactive, which uses FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings to forecast the rest of the season. And if you think you can outsmart Elo, step right up to our prediction game, which lets you pick against our model (and your fellow readers) for bragging rights and a place on our giant leaderboard.Here are the games where Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the field of prognosticators last week: It probably isn’t a coincidence that Rivers is currently enjoying his best statistical performance in years, with Gordon and Allen also contributing more than any Charger rusher and receiver since the days of LaDainian Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson. It’s a little circular, in that sense: Is Rivers making them better, or are they helping Rivers rediscover his form? (Gordon’s ability to run against stacked defenses, for instance, has opened up space for Rivers to throw downfield.) Either way, the ingredients have been in place for a late-career QB rejuvenation. Right now, Rivers is on pace to tie for the ninth-most-efficient post-merger performance for a passer age 35 or older, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s advanced passing index. As far as old-man QB seasons go, this is one of the best in history.Of course, with the Chargers, it’s about more than just improved talent. It’s also about execution, something this team has often been found sorely lacking over the years. As Mike Tanier wrote in his L.A. chapter for Football Outsiders’ 2018 Almanac, you could make a pretty convincing case that the 2017 Chargers missed the playoffs because of two very fundamental football activities: tackling and kicking. Last year, Los Angeles let opponents break tackles at an incredible rate and missed numerous field goals and extra points, helping to turn a team with 10-and-a-half-win point differential into a sad-sack nine-game-winner.This year’s place-kicking game hasn’t been great (Caleb Sturgis made just 71 percent of his total field goals and extra points before he was sidelined by an injury), but it’s no longer dead-last in football, which I suppose is an accomplishment. Plus, the Chargers rank among the best in the league in terms of kickoffs, a big reason for their fourth-ranked net starting field position. And as for the tackling woes, they appear to be a thing of the past. According to Football Outsiders’ charting data, only 3.9 percent of plays by Charger opponents have seen a broken tackle, good for 10th best in the league this year. Relatedly, the Chargers are also allowing the league’s sixth-lowest rate of yards after first contact per rush this season, another major sign of defensive progress as compared with last season. 201379.6R. Mathews90.3K. Allen65.432.2 What’s been a great season for Elo kept getting better in Week 6 as the algorithm beat the average reader by 55 points, its second-best showing of the entire year so far. Human predictors really only had one major feather in their cap — Houston’s Nathan Peterman-fueled win over Buffalo (a very bad team whose badness Elo refuses to acknowledge) — but otherwise they saw Elo run roughshod over their picks. Elo correctly called wins for Dallas and Miami when readers picked otherwise, and it had a lot more confidence than readers in the Jets’ and Chargers’ victories as well. All told, the average reader is now down 233 points to Elo for the season to date.Among the readers who weren’t destroyed by Elo, congrats to John D. Harden, who led all users with 275 points in Week 6, and to Jevon Mallett, who continues to lead all users for the season with 453 points. Thanks to everyone who played last week — and if you didn’t play, get in on the game already! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you haven’t played yet.Check out our latest NFL predictions. TB20.75.6CLE1.11.06.61394 Source: Football Outsiders, ESPN Stats & Information Group 201445.7B. Oliver53.3M. Floyd53.542.8 200886.5L. Tomlinson96.0V. Jackson72.938.7 CAR43.4%±12.8PHI64.2%±12.225.01586 MIN74MIN79MIN 27, ARI 17+0.9– BUF10.25.7IND4.12.38.01417 The best matchups of Week 7Week 7 games by the highest average Elo rating (using the harmonic mean) plus the total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions ATL27.76.5NYG1.21.07.51454 Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality LAC60.614.6TEN41.312.627.21524 The Chargers must have practiced their tacklingLos Angeles Chargers’ defensive performance and league ranking in preventing opponents from breaking tackles or gaining yards after contact YearBroken tackles/playNFL RankOpponents’ yards after 1st contact/rushNFL Rank BUF52%HOU60%HOU 20, BUF 13+9.4– 201148.0R. Mathews96.6V. Jackson72.333.2 2012-3.9R. Mathews59.9M. Floyd50.955.4 DEN3.82.6ARI188.8.131.52418
OSU redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett (16) carries the ball while redshirt senior tight end Nick Vannett (81) looks for a defender to block during a game against Michigan on Nov. 28. OSU won, 42-13. Credit: Samantha Hollinshead | Photo EditorFor most of the season, the Ohio State offense seemed to have a flat tire. It was moving forward, but something was present that hampered it from rolling at its expected pace.Then, against Michigan State last week, the wheels fell off.The offense sputtered to just 132 yards in a puncturing loss, leaving behind a storm cloud of questions about what was vitiating a unit with so much talent. Amid the aftermath, OSU coach Urban Meyer seemed to stumble upon a solution. It had nothing to do with someone wearing shoulder pads or a helmet. Rather, it lied with those wearing headsets. The fix? Moving offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner from the sideline up to the coaches box for a better vantage point in calling plays.It might be a small sample size, but judging off Saturday’s 42-13 shellacking of 10th-ranked Michigan, it worked.“He did a marvelous job,” Meyer said of Warinner. “We had to make the move … On Tuesday, I just said, ‘We’re going to do this.’” The decision to alter Warinner’s gameday location might appear to be past due after the offense’s struggles throughout parts of the year, but there are reasons for its late arrival. It is Warinner’s first season with the title “offensive coordinator” in front of his name after former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Tom Herman left Columbus for a head-coaching job at Houston. Tim Beck was brought in from Nebraska to coach quarterbacks and be co-offensive coordinator. For much of the early going, Beck, Warinner and Meyer all collaborated through the headsets on gameday about play-calling, with Beck being upstairs. With the loss of a key coach, especially one of Herman’s abilities, growing pains should be present as the coaches settle on gameday roles. For the defending national champions, it just so happened that the growth took some time. The other main reason, Meyer said, was because of Warinner’s job as the offensive line coach. “To coach all five guys, and call a game, to be involved in the play calling — that’s tough,” Meyer said. “It’s difficult. You can only do that with a veteran offensive line.”Fortunately for the Buckeyes, a veteran offensive line is exactly what they have. Four of the five starters were on the O-line that engineered massive holes down the stretch en route to winning the title. The only new starter — right tackle Chase Ferris — happens to be a fifth-year senior. Without having its position coach on the sideline, concerns over how the offensive line is to deal with in-game adjustments are valid. It just took hitting rock bottom against the Spartans for the coaching staff to confront those concerns. To fill his void during the game, Warinner said tight end coach Tim Hinton traded the warmth of the coaches box for a spot on the sideline. In addition, they also relied heavily on graduate assistant and former NFL offensive lineman Jim Cordle and senior center Jacoby Boren.Warinner was heavy in his praise for Cordle and Boren, noting that he communicated with Boren a few times over the headset when he had comments or concerns. “Jacoby understands what everybody does,” Warinner said. “I knew that if something was going on that we needed to make adjustments, that we could just call him and he would understand.” Since a way to address all the concerns had been concocted, it allowed Warinner to go upstairs, where play calling becomes easier because of increased vision of the field. With that addition, it allowed the Buckeyes to play up-tempo for sustained periods of time.“Part of playing fast is, ‘What’s the next call? Is it second-and-10, or second-and-5?’” Warinner said. “The situations, you see them. You don’t have to wait for someone to tell you. You just see it all and go.” With its new set of wheels and a reduced operation time, the offense sure did go, racking up 482 yards, 369 of which came on the ground. At one point, it scored touchdowns on five of six possessions. The up-tempo scheme worked, as the Michigan defense became notably fatigued as the game worn on. “You saw what happened when he went up there and called the plays today,” senior left tackle Taylor Decker said. “He’s a very capable coach and that criticism he was taking was unwarranted … The game plan wasn’t very complicated. It was very simple but it was high execution.” Warinner said he was “real comfortable” up in the coaches box, noting that during early stops in his career, he called plays from upstairs. He also said the transition to working alongside Beck during the game was “very smooth.” Because of the offense’s success against the Wolverines, there is reason to believe Warinner will remain upstairs for whatever postseason play comes the Buckeyes’ way. But the coach was quick to deny it was a permanent. He instead tried to deflect attention off his migration to the coaches box to the players and their performance.“It’s real gratifying for our team, our players, for the whole program when you win this game,” Warinner said. “It’s all about that, it’s not about me or do I feel better. Sure, I feel better because we won. Anything after that is fine but, it’s for the kids.”
OSU Sophomore Guard Ameryst Alston (14) during a game against UConn on Nov. 16. OSU lost 100-56. Credit: Ian Bailey | Lantern ReporterOhio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff’s attitude of challenging his team with elite opponents, allowing his players to learn and grow from the experience, cannot be questioned.For the third time in seven games, the Buckeyes battled a top-three-ranked adversary and participant in last season’s Final Four. McGuff’s team fell to No. 2 South Carolina 88-80 in the season opener and lost to No. 1 Connecticut 100-56 three days later.The latest game, against No. 3 Notre Dame, allowed OSU a third and final opportunity to take down one of the elite teams before conference play begins.But the Buckeyes could not hang on down the stretch as Notre Dame (7-0) pulled ahead late and handed No. 10 Ohio State (4-3) its closest loss of the season, beating the Scarlet and Gray 75-72 Wednesday evening in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.OSU sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell, who led the Buckeyes in scoring with 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting, missed a deep 3-pointer as time ran out which would have sent the game into overtime. The fierce competitor played the entire game, all 40 minutes, not once subbing out.“We wanted to get her off a ball screen, she came off one, we were going to maybe set another and she got a good look at it. But it didn’t go down,” McGuff said of the final play.Mitchell’s backcourt scoring partner, senior guard Ameryst Alston, struggled to find a groove in a sloppy first half by both teams, but improved in the second half as 11 of her 13 points came after halftime. She fouled out late, but not before her layup tied the game at 72 with 37 seconds remaining.Turnovers from both teams were responsible for the ugly first half. Of OSU’s 20 turnovers, 12 came in the first 20 minutes of the game. Notre Dame committed 18 turnovers, nine occurring in the first half.The Buckeyes scored 24 points off turnovers compared to the Fighting Irish’s 19, a discrepancy due to the fact that OSU coughed the ball over more.. McGuff noted turnovers, along with rebounding, as the biggest struggle for the Buckeyes.Notre Dame, missing starting sophomore forward Brianna Turner and junior forward Taya Reimer due to injuries, relied on volume shooting and offensive rebounding to dispose of the Buckeyes.“They’re still a great team. They were really well prepared tonight. They played hard, they executed really well on offense,” McGuff said about Notre Dame.Redshirt senior guard Madison Cable paced the Fighting Irish with 25 points and, despite standing just 5-foot-10, she corralled 11 rebounds. Her teammate, junior guard Lindsay Allen added 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.Entering Wednesday’s game, the Notre Dame connected on 45.2 percent of their 3-point attempts. However, the Fighting Irish attempted a whopping 24 threes, twice as many as OSU, but made just seven.The home team made up for the poor shooting night by cleaning up the offensive glass, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds.Defensive rebounding remains an issue for OSU.“I thought that was the difference in the game,” McGuff said about losing the rebounding battle. “They got too many second-chance points.”Only junior forward Shayla Cooper accounted for more than four rebounds, as she grabbed 15 of her team’s 34 rebounds. By the end of the first half, Cooper already posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. She ended up with 18 points.“She was a warrior on the glass and we needed it because they’re a great rebounding team,” McGuff said. “But overall, I thought this is probably her best game.”Through seven games, opponents average 15 offensive rebounds per game against OSU, a staggeringly large number. The Buckeyes have grabbed 15 rebounds just twice all season and only once has the team outrebounded its opposition.“Yeah, we do, we do,” McGuff said when asked about needing to find someone else other than Cooper to help inside. “We need to find a little more around the basket than just her.”
After the decommitment of Tyjon Lindsey earlier this week, and the announcement of former wide receiver Torrance Gibson’s transfer to Cincinnati, the Ohio State football team has landed another recruit to play wideout. This time, the commitment comes from Ohio native and four-star receiver Jaylen Harris.Harris, hailing from Cleveland Heights, is the sixth-ranked wide receiver in the state of Ohio, according to 247Sports.com. He joins the likes of Josh Myers, Brendon White, Amir Riep and Marcus Williamson as top Ohio players to make the decision to play in Columbus.OSU scooped up Harris over the likes of Michigan State and Penn State. The big-bodied wide receiver brings a height advantage in nearly every matchup, standing at 6-foot-5, according to 247Sports.com.Harris is just the second wide receiver commit from the 2017 class for OSU, and the 19th verbal commitment the Buckeyes have received for this year’s class. He joins Trevon Grimes as incoming freshman receivers who could receive a role in Urban Meyer’s team next season.The C O M M I T M E N T#HolyHungryHumblehttps://t.co/jtLthKf3b5— Jaylen Harris (@JHarris5_) January 13, 2017
Alex Williams, a second-year in computer science engineering, prepares to scrimmage Robert Morris University during a Feb. 13 League of Legends practice. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Senior Lantern ReporterOhio State is most recognized for its championship-caliber football program, but it could begin to be recognized for a new brand of collegiate athletics –– esports. In January, Big Ten Network announced the launch of its official “League of Legends” season in partnership with Riot Games, the creator of the online game. League of Legends clubs from 12 schools in the Big Ten Conference will participate in the inaugural season, including a team from OSU.Kentaro Ogawa, a fifth-year in food business management, started playing “League” of Legends after the game was first released in 2009, when he was in high school. But after going to OSU and playing “League” for different student organizations, Ogawa said he wanted to create a collegiate team inspired by professional gamers. “Everyone was starting to copy the professional players, because you would see it over social media, where they would have gaming houses and paid coaches and managers,” Ogawa said. “It’s very exciting to see that.”Ogawa hosted tryouts in 2015 to build his own five-player team, as well as recruiting other members to hold roles of a coach, manager and analyst. Last season, OSU was ranked as one of the top eight teams in North America.Although the Big Ten does not sponsor esports, nor are they officially sanctioned by the NCAA, the conference started to dip its toes into the world of “League of Legends” in 2016 after hosting an invitational at PAX East in Boston, one of the largest gaming events in North America. It was that exhibition match between OSU and Michigan State, which OSU won, that evolved into a season-long competition, said Peter Ferguson, the team’s coach.“We knew that (Big Ten Network) was interested in doing something, but by no means did I think it would happen this quickly,” said Ferguson, who graduated from OSU in 2016.Teams compete in either the Big Ten East or West divisions, and play in a best-of-three round robin. After the round-robin matches, the top four teams from each division will compete in a single-elimination playoff bracket, ultimately ending in a faceoff between the East and West division champions. OSU’s team is currently 2-1 this season, beating Michigan State and Indiana but falling to Maryland.Each week, one match will be aired live online on Watch.lolesports.com and also on BTN2go. OSU’s first broadcasted match will air on Feb. 27 against Michigan.OSU’s “League” team practices three times a week, scrimmaging against teams from other divisions, as well as against semi-professional and professional teams. Unlike most collegiate teams, however, OSU “League” players do not often practice together or in person. Players usually compete in tournament matches from their apartment or dorm rooms.“Because it’s all online, it doesn’t matter where the teams are,” Ogawa said. “Generally, all players would just stay in their own dorms or apartments and get on something like Skype to keep in touch and communicate with each other while they played.”In an effort to build team synergy, Ogawa said the team is now trying to meet in person every other week for practice at the Fawcett Center, something made possible through a new relationship with the Department of Athletics. Jim Null, associate director of IT for athletics, said he had just started learning what esports were when the Big Ten announced the tournament season. Null then reached out to Ogawa to see how he could help out. “My role (in the department of athletics) is in technology, so I thought, ‘This sounds like a good fit, something fun and interesting and new,’” Null said.Because collegiate esports is still relatively unknown to many, Null and Ogawa said they are trying to figure out what exactly OSU’s role could be in the future. For now, Null said he thinks a lot of that comes through informing people about the team. “I think it’s learning what it is and educating people on what it is,” he said. “I mean the fanbase is pretty darn passionate, the players are passionate and it’s making a mark worldwide in esports.”A viewing party will be hosted at the Huntington Club in Ohio Stadium for students to watch the OSU-Michigan live stream. Null said he hopes that this new tournament will interest students who aren’t necessarily interested in traditional sports.“I don’t think all of our students are going to football games,” Null said. “For some students, it’s just not their thing and (this could be) a way to reach out to those students. There might a connection there.”For Ogawa, he said whatever the future of collegiate esports may hold, he hopes to see what people view as a sport expand.“I don’t know how much longer “League of Legends” will stay relevant, but I know esports will stay relevant,” Ogawa said. “Maybe it will switch over to another game or title, but I think just because there’s a demographic that hasn’t been touched yet in esports, it’ll stay for a while. We’re working to change the social stigma of video gamers, because right now it has a bad reputation. But, if it’s seen as something that is comparable to traditional sport in a way, the demographic will expand.”